Thursday, 30 January 2014

London Art Fair 2014 - review

Doing #LAF2014 like a VIP

"For those seeking out the freshest work and emerging talent, Art Projects features large-scale installations, solo shows and curated group displays from across the globe"
- Sarah Monk in the London Art Fair programme book.

LAF2014 at The Business Design Centre
LAF2014 at the Business Design Centre, Islington.

Last year I started to broaden my attendance of art fairs, in a personal quest to understand the art world better. This is partly as an extension of my final year degree project and due to a practical need to understand better how to function now I've graduated. My initial explorations took me off to Big Deal No 5 and Sluice Art Fair, a couple of the many events running during Frieze week in London, though a derailed train prevented me from attempting to include The Other Art Fair as well. Having visited Frieze in previous years as an arts student, to see what were the big names on show, I was slightly uncomfortable with having to pay full price for a ticket especially now that the fair had spawned Frieze Masters. That cost and a curiosity about where graduates went after art school led me to shift my awareness to the venues that would host emerging artists, as opposed to established talent.

It was with this in mind that I gratefully accepted an offer of a free VIP ticket from Axisweb in order to explore The London Art Fair, at the Business Design Centre in London. Having just complied a list of art fairs to visit in 2014 I was keen to start sampling these events to see what opportunities exist for emerging artists like myself.

It was my first trip to this event and so I was surprised to find that it has been going for many years now, in fact the London Art Fair is now in its 26th year. Why it wasn't on my radar may be explained by the fact that the Frieze art fair has drawn more press attention in the last few years and has attracted the general public as well as the arts community. The London Art Fair 2014 is somewhat of a less sexy event, the buzz and vigour of Frieze that comes from having flashy art, big name galleries and two massive tents of art in a London park is absent here. There is a champagne element for VIPs and galleries, with sparkling wine making an appearance everywhere on preview day, leading to a relaxed atmosphere in the evening.

Like Frieze, art as a commodity was also a feature of the LAF2014, with one talk titled 'Is Art Really a Good Investment?', but more disturbing for artists was the booth that purported to offer bespoke art market research to help speculators to track artists' fortunes like stock market investments, with graphs based on 'research and market analysis'. As an established artist your career trajectory is being mapped out for you every 6 months, according to sales of your work. Fortunately the rest of the fair seemed to be more old-school and simply interested in just getting people to take an interest in the work.

Inside LAF2014
Inside LAF2014

The London Art Fair includes artist groups and less-established artists, in the Art Projects section. This is an addition made just nine years ago, which I suspect may have been inspired by the success of Frieze art fair, which also has a large projects area and threads some of its projects throughout the fair.

LAF2014 stairs
Up to LAF Art Projects and the cafes.

The LAF2014 layout had the more established and commercial galleries taking up the ground and mezzanine level. The Art Projects took a bit of seeking out, as they were up another flight of stairs (see picture) sharing the Gallery Level 1 floor with the main cafe. You needed to climb yet another flight of stairs to find Photo50 up on the top floor. In some ways the Art Projects, where I finally found Axisweb at P27 and The Catlin Guide on P25 were well-catered for, with their own stand guide and gallery listings but they didn't feel like they were central to the event with their remote location. There are pros and cons to this of course, the problem being that you'd have to feel energetic and motivated or visit over more than one day to have time for both the central galleries and the project spaces. The pros seem to be that the projects get good press coverage and having their own space gives it a community feel. Certainly, once the preview evening kicked off there was quite a party atmosphere in this section.

Axisweb team.
The Axisweb team at P27.

In the Art Projects my first port of call was Axisweb, whose stand was next to the Film Screening Room, where I found a chatty Lesley and Ruth and a retiring Mark. They helpfully explained their role in promoting their 2000+ selected members, including the four artists' work they were showcasing for this fair. An earlier search of the site's member's list had revealed some Axisweb artists I know in my area. They also explained their multi-tier membership plan - they recently introduced 'Early career' membership options for recent graduates, which I found helpful to know as it's cheaper than their standard membership. According to Lesley and Ruth, Axisweb publicise themselves to universities but it is hard to say if mine mentioned them. I think I discovered Axis via Facebook and Twitter initially, but obviously I'm happy to have heard of them now.

The Catlin Guide were two stops down, with book of 'New Artists in the UK' in a handsome blue slipcase. Their guide fits in with my position as an emerging artist who has just graduated. The guide showcases new work by 40 graduate and post-graduate artists that had their final show a year ago, to hold a window up to work made 'during the crucial first year after leaving art school'. [1] The guide is presented as a lovely, high quality book but the selection of artists does seem biased towards UCL and UAL graduates, though nine other universities do get a mention. Also I'm a bit skeptical as to which 'crucial first year' they mean seeing as many of the graduates are at MA/MFA level. Still, I'm sure they mean well and it is great publicity for some artists' names.

Axisweb tote bag
Axisweb tote bag.

Now I had promised to compare LAF2014 to the two other fairs I mentioned earlier. First impressions? Overall, as an emerging artist, I preferred Big Deal No5 and Sluice 2013. Yes, their locations were a challenge, BD5 being hidden in an underground car park behind Oxford Street, Sluice requiring a trip accross London to a hired space in South London. Yes, that meant that these fairs were probably less likely to attract big collectors and press attention. However they were free entry, they had the cool buzz of running in the same week as Frieze, at the stands I had the opportunity to see and talk to other artists as they set up or manned their stalls. The atmosphere drew you in with the frisson of participatory and performance art alongside traditional media and I felt that these were events I'd happily visit again.

How does the LAF compare with Frieze, BD5 and Sluice? Obviously this fair is on at a completely different time of year. It's an established London event but relatively low-key. As an emerging or mid-career artist you'll probably have to entice people upstairs to see your work. Groups like Axisweb can give you a place to meet other contemporary fine artists with a less commercial angle. I found it a fairly sedate event with some commercial stands showing depressingly derivative 'art' but then large art fairs aren't usually aimed at conceptual artists. As Sarah Thornton notes in Seven Days In the Art World, this kind of art fair may be less interested in art that can't become an easily retailed commodity such as invisible or ephemeral art. [2]

LAF2014 Art Projects entrance

Although the focus of LAF2014 seemed to be on British art, there was a also healthy international presence in the Art Projects. The talks, performances and film screenings give the projects area a live presence, even if they are hidden away upstairs. I missed the talks but the film room seemed very popular, even with its dodgy projector, and was packed to the hilt the time I popped in. I also found art I enjoyed at the Hanmi Gallery stand where there were clever videos, by South Korean artist Junebum Park, that I could relate to my own practise in terms of modern urban landscapes and their social impact.

A friend asked me about the LAF and I confirmed that yes there were 'weird artists' there but, no, the fair seemed mainly aimed at buyers, potential funders and maybe other dealers.. As Axisweb explained to me, the London Art Fair was mainly showing traditional media in 2D and 3D. This meant that there was nothing too strange, difficult or flashy in most of the spaces or on the walls, though there were art films in the corner screening room.

Overall, the London Art Fair looks like it'll retain its place as a fixture in the calendar for contemporary artists as it is a tried and trusted means of kicking off a new year of art events and it's in a central London location with good transport connections. As I was lucky enough to have a VIP ticket, I didn't have to face paying for entry myself. Its value to the emerging artist is probably mostly as a way of gearing up for the year ahead and as an opportunity to take part in a showcase, so put it in your diary for next year but get a discounted ticket from Axisweb or The Art Fund, or even better bag a free VIP ticket from a stand if you can.

LAF2014 art swag
LAF2014 VIP art swag

[1] Hammond, J. (2014) The Catlin Guide 2014, Caitlin Holdings Limited. 
[2] Thornton, S. (2009) Seven Days In the Art World. Granta Books, London, p. 104

More Axisweb LAF blogs at

Friday, 17 January 2014

Andy Warhol - Photographs 1976 - 1987

In 2007 the Stedelijk Museum organised an exhibition called Andy Warhol - Other voices, other rooms. The exhibition at the Stedelijk opened up more dimensions of Warhol's body of work by making space for 27 of his ventures into film-making, video and audio recordings. [1] The final section of the exhibition showed Warhol's interest in the cutting-edge technology of that era by showing the work he produced for television. Warhol's approach to film seemed ideally suited to his experiments in television, with its emphasis on non-acting and a generous approach to time, allowing us to take in our subjects as leisurely as we might gaze at a painting. In this format he was able to train the camera's voyeuristic gaze on everyone alike, feeding an appetite for trivia and detail.

Many people still think of Andy Warhol in terms of his best-known work which includes screenprints and paintings, such as Marylin Diptych (1962) at the Tate. In this sense we are well-versed in the artist's preoccupation with subjects like the commodification of celebrity versus the limited lifespan of its subjects. His prediction that everyone would have their brief window of fame was also something that we've heard a lot about,  a topic which seems to have reflected the public's rising interest in reality TV. However, until social media like Twitter started to drive news stories from 2007 onwards, it wasn't yet apparent how much the ordinary person would be able to have their own mayfly moment in the sun.

The current exhibition at The Photographer' Gallery promises to show us more of Warhol the photographer, noting that he received his first camera at the age of nine and started developing his pictures in his basement. It also reminds us that Warhol eagerly adopted new tools for his work in a way that suggests that he would be comfortable with our preoccupation with recording and sharing the minutiae of our lives with cameraphone snaps and videos. From his purchase of a Minox compact camera in 1976,  Warhol was rarely without a compact camera about him, excited by the possibilties afforded by the shrinking camera technology and the freedom it afforded him. Photographs 1976 - 1987 marks Warhol’s adoption of the compact camera, an important development in his career-long endeavour to turn image making into a production line.

Andy Warhol photograph : Gay Pride, 1976-87
Andy Warhol
Gay Pride, 1976-87
Silver gelatin print, 8 x 10"
© 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / 
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS,
London Courtesy FAIF Collection/Gallery focus21, Switzerland


ANDY WARHOL: PHOTOGRAPHS 1976 - 1987 is at The Photographer' Gallery from 17th January to 30th March 2014. The ticket price also includes admission to David Lynch: The Factory Photographs and Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs, which are open over the same period.

[1] For a flavour of Warhol's sound and film experiments:
- listen to The Andy Warhol Tapes (1994), Narrated by John Giorno, on Ubuweb here:
or  watch Andy Warhol's film Sleep (1963) on Vimeo, length 40 minutes

Friday, 10 January 2014

Art Fairs - 2014

London Art Fairs - 2014

Signs that you're at an art fair.

We're going to have fun at the London Art Fair because Axisweb are giving VIP tickets to bloggers to write about the show and I'm one of the lucky artist-bloggers to be offered a ticket. Woo-hoo etc because if you'd wanted a discounted advance ticket then that ship sailed at the end of December, so now it's full price or nothing.

So many thanks to Axisweb and I think it's only fair to mention that their stand is at P27.

What Axisweb say about themselves: "Axisweb returns to exhibit at the fair within critically acclaimed Art Projects, which focuses on emerging artists, curated group displays and large-scale installations. Our selection focuses on four artists who take pleasure in abstract shape, colour and pattern, and whose works reveal something of their own making. We are exhibiting work by four artists from the Axisweb directory."

Click here to out more about Axisweb at the London Art Fair 2014 and their showcase of four emerging artists.

Axisweb members also get these events:  a member's party on Thursday evening; Thursday, Friday and Saturday they ’re busy running 1-2-1 surgeries with their members, offering advice on how to improve their digital presence..

Another group that seem keen to see us at the fair are The Catlin Guide who, like Axisweb, are showcasing some new artists.

London Art Fair, Jan 15 - 19
Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street  / +442072886456 /
The blurb: 'Hosts galleries specializing in modern British & contemporary art.' #LAF2014

Art 14 London, Feb 28 - Mar 2
Olympia Grand Hall, Olympia Way, Hammersmith Road, Kensington  / +442078863112 /

Update: How to get 50% off Art14 tickets with a National Art Pass.

The Other Art Fair, 24-27 April
Ambika P3 / 020 7886 3062 /
The blurb: 'The Other Art Fair is a unique platform from which emerging artists can independently showcase their work.'

COLLECT, May 9 - 12
Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road  / +442078062500 /
The blurb: 'The international Art Fair for Contemporary Objects'

Masterpiece Art Fair,  Jun 26 - Jul 2
South Grounds, The Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3  / +442074997470 /
The blurb: 'Art, antiques, design.'

20/21 British Art Fair, Sep 10 - 14
Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore  / +442087421611 /
The blurb: 'The best fair for modern and contemporary British art.'

Frieze London & Frieze Masters,  October 16-19
Regents Park / +44 (0)20 3372 6111 /
You know what this one's about, don't you? Art, money, big galleries and art projects.

Big Deal - Frieze week in 2013
TBC for 2014 / Big Deal No 5 was held in Cavendish St car park in 2013

Sluice Art Fair - ran during Frieze week in 2013
TBC for 2014 / + 44 (0)1273 488996 /

You can see blog entries with photos about Big Deal No5 and Sluice Art Fair 2013 on my Facebook page. These were both free to attend and I'd recommend going when they surface again but I'm still waiting to see dates for their 2014 events. the Other Art Fair also ran a Frieze week event last year but a derailed train stopped me visiting, again I haven't got any details yet if they'll do another this year.

This guide was partly compiled from entries on Artforum:

Let me know if you think there are any other fairs I should have included in this list - get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Looking forward to 2014

Forward planning

It's time to put up our new calendars or wall planners and start marking in the exhibitions we'd like to see. I'm usually a bit last minute about my choices but this year it seemed time to think ahead a little. It looks like a lot of exhibitions are kicking off in the new year from the 15th January onwards, so there's still a little time to sort out our schedules. For this blog I thought we could take a look at a couple of lists to start planning for the visual arts and film out in 2014, with a few of my own thoughts about them.

If you want to see the original lists then follow the links under each section.

Guardian Arts 2014

Hannah Hoch
As a fan of the offbeat humour of Dadaism and the works it inspired, this exhibition should probably be on my list.
Whitechapel Gallery, (020-7522 7888), 15 Jan to 23 March.

Vincent van Gogh: The Sunflowers
Another London blockbuster exhibition of popular art but not a big pull for me as I prefer to see this artist's work in small doses. I like the link up between two museums though and hope that trend continues.
National Gallery, London WC2 (020 7747 2885), Jan 25 to Apr 27

Ryan Trecartin
This is an artist I'm unfamiliar with so I'd want to read up about his work first but his inclusion in the 2013 Venice Biennale sounds promising.
Zabvlodowicz Collection, London NW5 (020-7428 8940), 2 Oct to 21 Dec.

Sigmar Polke: Alibis
"This retrospective aims to show the German painter, sometime film-maker and sculptor in full."
Looks like it could be a good use of my Tate member's card, if I can afford to renew it again.
Tate Modern, London SE1 (020-7887 8888), 9 Oct to 8 Feb 2015.

The Telegraph  - top picks for January 2014



Jeremy Deller: English Magic
One I definitely want to see, as I couldn't get to the Venice Biennale and I want to see his work in person. Jeremy Deller makes the kind of work I'd like to be making myself. I need to find my own way there, so I take work like his as an inspiration that the art world still supports artists making socially-inclusive artworks.
At the William Morris Gallery, London E17 (020 8496 4390), Jan 18 to Mar 30
Update: BBC interview with Jeremy Deller at The William Morris Gallery

The Sunflowers (Van Gogh)
As for The Guardian (above).

Martin Creed
At the Hayward Gallery for his first UK retrospective, Martin Creed seems to be a very interesting artist. His  work has started to grow on me in the last couple of years, as I've stumbled accross more of his pieces that I enjoy. Like many of my favourite artists, his artwork combines logic and a simplicity of approach with a sense of humour, in what feels like an accessible form. Various pieces of his work started to influence the way I think about my own artworks while I was in the final year of my degree, so I'll try and make time for this one as well.
Hayward Gallery, London SE1 (020 7960 4200), Jan 29 to Apr 27

Artlyst 2014 picks

At first glance I'd say I'm most intrigued by the prospect of seeing Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery and a possible takeover of Kensington Gardens. I hope we have good weather in June to get the most out of this. Andy Warhol, William S Burroughs and David Lynch have covered subject matter I'm interested in, so I should probably try and fit this in too but these are three exhibitions, so I'm not sure how that'll work yet.

Artlyst's pick of exhibitions in London, also included Martin Creed at the Hayward, plus ...

Hannah Höch at  Whitechapel Gallery 15 Jan -  23 March 2014 Galleries 1, 8 & Victor Petitgas Gallery  (Gallery 9)
Giorgio de Chirico Myth and Mystery at Estorick Collection 15 January – 19 April 2014
Andy Warhol, William S Burroughs and David Lynch at Photographers Gallery London, 17 Jan - 30 Mar 2014
Richard Hamilton at ICA 12 Feb 2014 – 6 Apr 2014
Richard Hamilton at Tate Modern, 13 February – 26 May 2014
Vikings: life and legend - British Museum 6 March – 22 June 2014
Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern, 17 April – 7 September 2014
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  at Barbican Art Gallery - 9 April 2014 - 17 August 2014
Mondrian and Colour at Turner Contemporary, 24 May – 21 September 2014
Mondrian and his Studios at Tate Liverpool, 6 June – 5 October 2014
Marina Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery, June 2014

I'd also love to hear your own thoughts and recommendations.

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